Me, the Student and some big time boxers: The big blag


Being in the right place at the right time may be a well-worn cliché but it is one which still holds great relevance for all us aspiring journalists. Being on work experience as a massive story breaks, having a camera as you spot someone dropping a fire extinguisher off a roof or bumping into a drunken celebrity in a dirty backstreet bar – all of these kind of situations give us wannabe hacks a chance to make a name for ourselves. But being in the right place at the right time often isn’t enough.

It is how you use your chance that counts and often you need to be able to blag.

One of my shots of the young boxer

Whilst at University both myself and the Student had the chance to interview a fellow student who was also a young boxer for Great Britain. After what I believe was a hotly disputed rock, paper, scissors contest it was decided that he got the interview, I would take the pictures (still a little bitter, I’m not going to lie). So off we went, knowing in advance that this Olympic hopeful would be accompanied by his agent/PR/bloke in a suit who funnily enough had some shaving foam still on his face as we shook hands. Still it was nice of him to make the effort.

As the interview finished this agent began talking about his plans for the boxing world; both myself and the Student saw a prime chance for some blagging. And so after some slightly hyperbolic statements about our connections with the University’s sports people and really going to town on the fact that I edited the sports section of a ‘National’ newspaper we had press entry and ring side seats for the upcoming England vs Germany amateur boxing contest at Birmingham’s NIA arena.

I got to lean on the canvas with my very modest camera and lens whilst three professionals snapped away with far superior equipment to my own. Meanwhile the Student scribbled away in the seats behind me, sat next to some old pros from the reporting world casually filing copy over the phone. Did we feel out of place? Yes. Did it matter? No…

We had blagged our way into this position, walking the walk and talking the talk and now all we could do was enjoy the brilliant experience. Plus, it opened the door for more blagging….

After offering a few of my snaps to Mr Agent and the sweet talking of the Student we managed to score an invite to a far more high-profile gig. This time there were no amateurs or young upstarts. This time it was the professional debuts of Olympic Gold medallist James DeGale and fellow boxers Frankie Gavin and Billy Joe Saunders. This time we were in the press conference, amongst Sky Sports cameras and some big dogs of the boxing world. We got interviews with Degale and Gavin and some great snaps which you can see here.

Check out the old school dictaphone being used, now you can really tell we’re blagging it.

So there we were, in with the big boys, not just sports stars but we were part of the big media crowd and from what? Some inflated suggestions about how well connected we were, some blag about the publicity our articles would give and the offer of free photographs. The main reason it worked if I’m honest is because we were arrogant enough to believe what we were saying. We made it sound like our presence at these events would be doing this agent a favour when in fact we were getting to experience first hand sport reporting for very little effort.

Sadly our wonderful relationship with Mr agent and his boxing mates didn’t last; the conclusion of our acquaintance aided by my asking him for payment for my photography skills. But what a great journey it was, chuckling to ourselves the whole time about how lucky we were and how our cocky gamble had paid off. So next time you are in a position of possibility just blag. You never know you might just get an interview with an Olympic gold medallist for the portfolio.

What is your best blag? Managed to get into a major gig? Landed an interview with an A-list celeb?

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About The Chancer
Tom is the former news and sport editor of Redbrick and also worked as the sport editor for The National Student. He has done work experience at local papers across the country and is currently studying the Newspaper Journalism MA at City University. He also co-writes the sport blog www.popeandswift.co.uk with The Student.

6 Responses to Me, the Student and some big time boxers: The big blag

  1. Michael Pope says:

    Don’t focus too much of your success on your ability to “blag”, people will be too quick to label you as a liar and so on. In truth you showed ambition, knowledge and courage.

    Not many people would have thought to interview the student boxer in the first place, proven by your success. You were able to display an understanding of your situation and the sport itself. And finally, you were not intimidated by other professional journalists and Gold medal winning athletes.

    I think what you did was pretty impressive. There can never be too much brave journalism.

  2. Peter Demain says:

    I have a question: are you fellows into boxing or did you view this as more an opportunity for accreditation and cred?

    I’ve a sustained enjoyment of that sport for a few reasons, some of which veer to the humdrum philosophical.

    Can’t see boxing as an occasional jaunt to be done inbetween reportage outside of sport. Lots of time must be invested and as Mr. Pope said it unwise to recourse to blagging with frequency for rep reasons – sooner or later anyone’s tongue slips. Careless talk tends to come back to haunt.

    Good journalism on occasion owe its existence to embellishment. Even historic investigations were clinched by confidently delivered claims. From what I’ve read and observed journalism still – despite corporate domineering – rewards talent, hard work and geniune interest.

    Pete, editor at Dirty Garnet.

  3. The Chancer says:

    Thanks for your comments. To answer your question Pete I would say that before the opportunity presented itself both we were both sport enthusiasts but did not have an overly exstensice knowledge of boxing.

    Our blagging was based on a genuine interest in learning more with a view to broadening our sporting knowledge in general, it most certainly wasn’t the case that we didn’t have a genuine interest in the event and the sport itself. Far from it. We both enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the rising stars of the sport and have since taken a far greater interest in boxing as a result of ‘blagging’ our way to these events.

  4. The Maverick says:

    It’s interesting to see the negative associations of ‘blagging’ brought up by Michael Pope and to a certain extent I agree with him: too often is journalism associated with lying and this kind of activity can be a little close to the bone. However, the entire time I’ve been involved in journalism I’ve not only seen ‘blagging’ occur on an Executive Editor level but also ‘milked it dry’ myself.

    I’m not a conman or out to take advantage of people, but as unpaid student journalists, interns and ‘freelancers’, we have got to get some perks. To date, this includes not paying gig or club entry for two years, two international music festival passes and an arts festival pass – most of which I gained by having previewed or reviewed the event; it’s only fair if you’re writing for free.

    There have been a few white lies along the way: I swanned into a NY fashion show with a plummed-up accent and announcement of an ‘awful morning, editor can’t make it’, but it seems like this kind of thing goes on a lot – although nobody would want to be the diva shouting ‘DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM!?’

    Furthermore, as Tom says, it’s not just about the jollies – you can get seriously good contacts and opportunities from ‘pretending to be a journalist’. You’ll also discover you’re not the only one there blagging it…it’s as essential a skill as networking and being savvy online.

  5. Pingback: Go Photo: If I can do it, anyone can « Wannabe Hacks

  6. Dave Molloy says:

    In professional life as in so many other areas, acting with supreme confidence will get you very far. Much farther than knowing your limits will.

    I’ve interviewed some titans in my time. Noam Chomsky and Peter Sutherland come to mind. Being way out if your depth isn’t a problem if you don’t let the other person know that’s the case. And I think that’s the core of the argument here.

    Not much has changed since asking out the love of your life at 15: people still respect confidence, belief and bravery. Only you need know that you might not have the goods at the end of the day.

    Not that you should lie; but for youngsters starting out, overestimating your abilities is forgivable, and something I’d encourage!

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